How a musical highly influenced our US East Coast road trip

Our journey along the East Coast of the United States felt like stepping into a movie for me and my family. On one hand, because we would call out things we recognized from movies or television, like when we saw an Amish person drive past us in his horse-drawn carriage. And on the other because we had planned to visit a lot of sites that we had seen on the big screen. One musical masterpiece in particular was the cause of many detours: Hamilton.

“Hamilton”, for the ones not familiar, is the musical that tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s Founding Fathers, through a blend of hip-hop, R&B, and traditional musical styles. The show follows Hamilton’s rise from an orphaned immigrant to a key figure in the American Revolution and the formation of the United States.

Musical tourism because of Hamilton?

Ever since it first premiered on Disney+, I’ve been a fan of Hamilton. And with me, my dad, who watched it three times in the same week we first saw it. My sister, who occasionally throws in an ‘Eliza’ liked it too. The only thing left to do was to convince our mom. So on our second night of the road trip, we had to see it on Broadway for the first time, and oh my. It exceeded our expectations.

Personally, I love how this musical is able to grasp such complex history and make it into an (arguably) understandable, political and emotional story. And then also write songs that are still incredibly catchy. You should have seen the mother with her two children in the theater seats before us. They were able to recite every single word of every song. A skill I’m proud to almost possess myself. Just a heads up: this blog is going to make a lot more sense if you have heard the songs before.

The days that followed included me often saying ‘oh this is what they talk about in Hamilton’. From Philadelphia, where we saw the first American bank Hamilton helped to create and where the constitutional convention took place, to Washington DC where we found the constitution itself as well as the Washington Monument. To name a few locations.

The Schuyler house

After making a detour of about an hour, we arrived in Albany just to see where the Schuyler sisters sing about when they wanna go upstate. While waiting for our tour to start, three little girls, aged 4 to 8, jump out of the car singing “Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy, the Schuyler sisters.” I clearly wasn’t the only one excited to see an old house of a slave owner.

The Schuyler house isn’t that impressive in itself, scratch it, it wasn’t impressive at all. Still, we made the detour and booked a tour just because of a musical. And we weren’t the only ones. Although I’m not particularly sure how long the drive was for the family with three young daughters, I’m very sure they were there because of the Schuyler sisters as well.

It is clear that Hamilton has made a huge impact on culture and appreciation of American history. And it’s great to see that the musical is also inspiring people to travel and learn more about the places that inspired it. When I search for ‘Musical Tourism’ on Google Scholar however, there are no results yet.

Other media that influenced our trip

Not only did Hamilton highly impact our trip, there were other sites we visited just because we had seen it on TV in the past.

Some of the other places we visited because of media:

  • Visiting the Von Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont. This was the hotel the ‘do re mi’ singing family from the Sound of Music built after they escaped the war in Austria.
  • A detour to visit Salem, the witchy village from Hocus Pocus.
  • Walking down the Atlantic City Boardwalk after watching Boardwalk Empire.
  • My mom’s TLC dream came through as well, besides all the (slightly) overweight Americans, she also got to see the Amish countryside. Something she was excited for ever since watching ‘Breaking Amish‘ on the TV.
  • Making a quick pitstop in the village known for a headless man on a horse, which we knew from watching Sleepy Hollow with Johnny Depp several times in the past.
  • “We simply have to bike to that pillar called the Washington Monument, it’s where Forrest Gump stood in the water”.
  • Looking for a nearby movie theater in every place we visited, just because we HAD to see Barbie.

In the past, I also wrote about how film tourism is taking over the dominant destination narrative in Edinburgh, with tourists coming to see how the city influenced Harry Potter.

Have you ever made travel plans based on movies you watched in the past?

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